Tag Archives: dogs

My Best Friend: 2 Days and 22 Hours

It is almost one month since I put Claddagh down.

That phrase is so gross to me; “Put them down.”

My dog was already a submissive… she was “put down” in many ways in her early life.  I am still disgusted at it all.

But, you know what?  I will only talk about it here.  I bombarded FB for the first two weeks with my pain… and now in modern decorum I will pretend it doesn’t rip me apart on the inside.  Oh, geez, am I following the steps of my forefathers, who chose to sweep inconvenient truths under the proverbial rug?

People don’t know how to mourn, these days.  Our fast paced society urges us to “get over it and move on” as quickly as possible.  We treat ourselves like processed food with defined expiration dates that serve as suggestions.  You might be cool eating an out of date yogurt at your own house, but if a host of some other house offers the same thing, you cringe.

“Keep it in house.”

See, I don’t feel like I am allowed to mourn my dog companion for more than a couple of weeks.  It isn’t allowed to break me, because their life expectancy is so much shorter than ours, and I should have known better.

I don’t feel like I can allow Claddagh to be the portal in which my previous pain, loss and suffering is filtered through.  I just don’t feel like I have permission to fully feel, even though people say “take your time” and “feel it fully.”

I don’t feel permission because I am always trying to integrate and get along, and no one likes a Debby Downer, or a Miserable Mandie.  I don’t feel permission because the extent of the pain is mine, alone to bare.

After day three, I told myself, “You HAVE to stop crying.  You HAVE to buck up.  No one cares as much as you do about it, and no one wants to hear about it.”

If you make it a mantra, I guess it makes it easier to adhere to, just through repetition.

If left to my own devices, I look out the door and say “All I really want is my dog.”  And I imagine what that looks like, only to further upset the state of my heart.

Honestly, I don’t care if I upset you if I end up crying in reminiscence of my dog; but because I am empathetic, and I know you don’t want to hear it, I will self censor.  I am not looking for your pity or sympathy…. I know you don’t know exactly what to say and it may be uncomfortable for you, that every topic you excavate leads back to me and my dog.

I am sure it is annoying, or at least uncomfortable.

I’m sorry, but I’m not.

I suppose if you don’t know what to do in the awkwardness, just smile.  Know that I experienced a facet of love in life that I would have otherwise avoided, and that in and of itself, is bound to make me a better person in the long run.

I know she wasn’t as interesting to you, as she was meaningful and profound to me, and that is okay… but try not to sweep her memory away in your urgency to bring me back to whatever you feel is your self perceived center.  I will take my time, and I require no rush on your end, for it will not bring any benefit.

She was “my girl”, ya know?  I don’t even know if I am allowed to use the same distinct whistle if I find a new dog friend… I feel bad for chiding my cats with her same belly rub rhyme.   Things are flowing into each other with my other animal friends,  where it once was distinct and individual.

And I liked that, ya know?  When her whistle was our whistle and not like any of the other whistles that were common for the other animals we mutually knew.

I kinda wish I got a Chilton manual on how to deal with this,or a “When your Dog Dies for Dummies” book,  even though I know, internally all I need to know.

Life cycles are beautiful, until you see the shame in loss.  My dog should have lived forever… I mean, that is how I feel. I never thought about getting another one, even though at times I thought about re-homing her due to my own personality flaws.

I’m looking at rescue dogs, trying to find a face I recognize.  Not Claddaghs’ face, per say… just a face that feels familiar in the rustic part of my being that is perfectly adapted to animal companionship.  I know it will happen when it is meant to… if it is meant to.

No worries here.  I just miss her so damn much and rightly so.

 

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My Best Friend: What Is Nature Without You

Yesterday I was numb.  My mind was empty.  I did a lot of pacing.  I used what mental strength I had to imagine kissing the black spot on Claddagh’s head, right where the third eye sits.  I imagined the way her hair spread across her face, and in what position she may be laying depending on where I was looking.

There is a ghost in my mind, that I am trying to materialize, and I know that it’s futile.

A recent acquaintance asked if I would like to go hiking tomorrow.  My folks suggested I take a few days and go to the mountains and write, or to at least take a walk.   At the moment I can’t bare the thought of going back to nature without my nature buddy. I mean, what would I even do once I got there?  Deep down I know that nature is my solace and I feel at most peace in the mountains.  I know that when I get there it will be hard to think about this pain in the same way that I am currently thinking about it, surrounded by the reminders of  this ordinary life we had been living.

Who will keep me warm at night, if I choose to camp?  Who will I share my meal with once that big meaty steak is done cooking over the open flame?  Who will alert the bears and beasts that we are peacefully sharing the space of nature for a few days?  Who will alert me when something suspicious- this way comes?

I know that I never really thought of Claddagh as “protective”, there was never any real reason for her to have to step into that role, and I really feel like she trusted me to be the protector.  When I think of going back to nature for long periods of time without her, I feel a sense of fear, despite the seemingly carefree nine years I was roaming and camping on my own before she came into my life.  I became incredibly comforted by her company.

When we were on our three month camp out, she wandered away from the camp site enticed by the smell of horse manure on the near by trails.   Frantically I called her back.  I walked around calling her and eventually I her her sharp cries in the distance.  I kept calling and walking until I honed in on her howl.   I found a distant campsite with a van and a tent.  Claddagh was tied to a tree with a rope, and an old drunk Native man sat on a near by camping chair.

I asked him why he had my dog tied to the tree, she was obviously responding to my calls.  The man said nothing, so I angrily walked to the tree and untied the rope.  Claddagh and I walked by to our site, side by side.

Claddagh was always more fun to walk with off-leash.  She was really good about either walking right by my side, or running up ahead about twenty feet and then stopping and waiting to for me to catch up.  I use to enjoy playing statues with her.  She would run up ahead and just as she would turn around, I would freeze in position.  I would hold it until she ran back to me to see why I wasn’t moving, and then I would just resume walking and we would do it all over again.

Nature was a big playground for us to make up games.  Sometimes we were treasure hunters.  Sometimes we were ninja’s.  Sometimes I would just trust her to take the lead in order to see where we ended up.  We stumbled on old graveyards, abandoned buildings, and perfect bubbling streams.

A few years ago we went out and my car battery died.  We walked the long dirt road back to Happy Jack and just hoped that some one would help.  Happy Jack looked desolate and the weather was turning dark and stormy.   Just as we approached the asphalt a big green truck drove by and I started waving frantically.  They pulled over and turned around.  Two kindly older gentlemen were in the cab.  They worked for Game and Fish and were happy to assist me and Claddagh.  We hopped in the back seat and they drove us back to the site and proceeded to jump my car.

I started packing up, and shared my last two Red Stripe beers with the men, who had never heard of Red Stripe before.  They gave Claddagh some treats, and were on their way.

It’s like I’ve always had “Angel Power”, but Claddagh amplified it.  We had double Angel Power between the both of us and often times it felt like things turned out the best for both of us, because she was there.  I think people subconsciously know that the way a dog acts, says a lot about the owner.  If you feel you can trust the dog, you can probably trust the owner.

More than once we were invited to stay with strangers who ended up being wonderful hosts.  It takes a special kind of person to invite an unknown person with a dog into their home, around their children.  We were blessed to have those kinds of experiences.

Claddagh and I didn’t go on many group camp outs.  One of the last ones was July 4th, probably four years ago now.   There was a rather large group of us, and almost everyone had a dog. I was so proud of Claddagh getting along with everyone.  There was one dog, belonging to a friend, who was younger and less adapted than the rest of the dogs in the group.  He really wanted to get to Claddagh, and it was slightly problematic, yet she wasn’t giving into violence.  I was hoping that we were entering a new maturity phase where it might be easier to be around more dogs without causing anxiety.

I was able to see that play out a couple of times as home, when an occasional lost dog would end up in our yard.  If they were friendly and tagged I would bring them into the back yard until I could figure out where they lived.  Claddagh would casually share the back yard, peeing on their pee, sniffing what the guest would sniff.  One time, a guest dog was super playful, and they ran around together, playing for the fifteen minutes it took for the dog’s family to arrive.

In all reality, I felt safer having Claddagh with me.  I haven’t really tested my fears in recent years, and it’s a scary prospect at re-exploring that side of me that has been dormant.  I’m not sure how I will be able to step back into it.

The idea to go camping came up a few weeks ago, and I really did want to go with Claddagh, but what I said was “If I go up to the mountains, I’m not going to want to come back down.”   That is really how I felt, that if we were to go back up there, that, that is where we would want to stay forever.   It’s like going back to the place you had a honeymoon, only you are returning solo.  All the magic that place may have held is no longer the same place.  You feel a haunted feeling, you see the ghosts of the past at every turn.  You turn to comment on the scene only to realize you are talking to yourself.

 

 

 

My Best Friend: Who Am I Without Her

I was a dog owner for just short of eleven years.  I’ve lived a decade immersed in that mentality.  Where I go, my dog goes.  If my dog isn’t welcome, I probably don’t want to be there.   I ditched out on parties early, avoided certain places all together, all for the sake of companionship.

Sometimes Claddagh would hang out in the car if I wanted to make an appearance at some event where she either wasn’t welcome, or I knew would have too many dogs and give her anxiety.  I would pop out every half hour and spend about fifteen minutes with her, eventually, most times cashing out early and going home.  Every once in a while it would be a late night in good company in calm environments with people who adored her and her dog friends around.   Those were the good ole days.

I knew I had to be friends with the people who had dogs that got along well with Claddagh.  Introductions were always the most awkward for her.  Dog protocol is all about the butt sniff.   Claddagh wasn’t having it.  Anytime a new dog got near her posterior she would growl, effectively telling them to “fuck off. ”  If the dog interested in her, could let the desire to sniff go for the amount of time it would take for Claddagh to get comfortable, they could then get close enough to take some sniffs and walk away to give her space before doing another cruise by.

Claddagh always had anal gland issues, though they seemed to be less bothersome in our last two years that were dominated by a diet change.  I wonder if she was insecure because of the glandular build up.  Maybe it was just sore.  In the beginning I thought maybe she had been tapped by another dog and there was trauma there, but that could just be my wild imagination.

It’s strange to think that we surround ourselves with living beings, daily, and yet we don’t really give them much thought once we get comfortable with their presence especially when we just trust in the routine of life.

I can’t focus on thinking about anything but my life with Claddagh, right now.  I go to distract myself with topics I generally find interesting and they have no allure.  An emotional cord has been ripped from my chest and I wonder how I will ever be able to fill the obvious hole in my heart.  I don’t want another dog.  I want my dog.

I am something different than I was two days ago.  Now I am “dogless.”  It feels wrong. So much of my personal identity was shared with this companion animal.  I am caught at an emotional crossroads that I’ve been to before.    Do I shut myself down and wall myself off as I have in so many human relationships, or do I see this as an opportunity to grow and change and to better understand and appreciate the various wavelengths that love can exist within?

I’d like to to believe I will follow the latter. I suppose I need to explore what this means for my human relationships.  Obviously the depth that I feel about this situation can not be ignored and I think that my willingness to dive those depths can be intimidating to the humans around me.

See, even though I am making this outpouring about a dog, these feelings are universal with any sort of significant loss.  We come from a history of people distracting themselves from their pain, and I find pain unavoidable.  I always have, but I believe in the Spirit of things and that Spirit always reminds me that everything is temporary and that things can always get better but one must have a willingness to believe that Truth in order to take advantage of it’s reality.

Claddagh brought to my life more depth than can ever be articulated.  We didn’t need words because our souls were in constant conversation.  My writing was able to take on even more depth because of Claddagh being there as an influence in my perception of the world, and because it was amazing to try and imagine the world through her eyes specifically when she was at play in nature, or when she would just stare at me for minutes on end.

She was a reflection of my soul. My soul mate.  It seems rare to find anything or anyone in the world that you would want to covet forever.  I am hopeful that I won’t have to wait another twenty-seven years to begin another journey like I had with Claddagh. I am hopeful that the depths of whatever is to be, extends ever further than I could dream or imagine.

I think if you really love and adore someone, you should consider taking on their best attributes.  If I were to take on the best attributes of Claddagh, I would be more excited for everything that life has to offer.  I would make each person I am with, feel like the most important person in the room by giving them my undivided attention.   I would wait to eat more meals with company.  I would go for a ride for no good reason more often especially if someone just wanted the company.

My life over the last six years has become quite isolating, and Claddagh took the brunt of that.  We went from fairly nomadic to completely stagnant.  Over the six years I just slowly stopped doing the things that we enjoyed most together because nature seemed so far away.  We aged and got lazy and uncomfortably comfortable together.  But, we were together, every single day.

What a great partner.  What an amazing friend.

My Best Friend :Soul Training

Sometimes you meet someone new, and you just instantly know that you will be friends.  You are not sure why, or what it is you have in common, but something flows between you that is almost effortless, and it is like a breath of fresh air in a world full of stifling pollution.

Usually it happens at “just the right time.”  “Just when you need it most.”  You may even feel “saved.”

Is Dog, God?

I’ve been seeking some sort of salvation my whole life.   Mostly I want to be saved from being lonely.  Lonely isn’t just a word, though; it is a big concept.  It’s definition isn’t even vast until you start researching the synonyms… “godforsaken” is my favorite.

Godforsaken!  It sounds pretty profound but it breaks down to “forlorn, desolate, miserable,”  basically Emotional Shitsville in a country called Isolation.

I’ve come to accept that I don’t think like a mass majority of people, and that can be scary for both parties.  Words are steeped in various meanings and history has shown that  words are manipulated and it isn’t rare to rule with an Iron Fist.   “A certain amount of violence is needed to keep them in line”- sort of mentality that I am way too familiar with.

I’ve written five chapters thus far.  It’s time to talk about my failures as a human.  My dog has been gone for 24 hours.  I’ve been unable to censor myself online about this journey.  The only thing I hope to gain from it, is a living record for myself and anyone who cares for whatever reason.  I haven’t been perfect, and none of us are.  Is a dog God with such unconditional love?

Have you ever just brushed someone away, and said, “No, not now?”

Or, maybe had a bad day and then poured all that anger on to an unsuspecting person?

Yeah.  I do.  I think that this is an unavoidable byproduct of life if you don’t become aware of it.   One of the shittiest feelings in the world is when you know you harmed someone else.

In the beginning, both Claddagh and I had our own quirks.  Her nervous behavior and my own anxiety would clash and being the dominate in the situation, sometimes I would take it out on her aggressively.   The worst thing she ever did was chew on stuff that she shouldn’t and occasionally steal my food and coffee, if left unattended.  I didn’t get mad a her about that stuff… I would express aggression toward her when other things were going wrong in my life, and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One day I had a melt down and she really took the brunt of it.  Afterward I felt so guilty and ashamed, so much so that I consulted friends about finding her a new home.   I didn’t deserve her.  That feeling never left me.  I didn’t deserve her affection and love, because I did the one thing that you should never do, which is fly off the handle and harm someone you love.  Somehow in that large heart of hers, she always forgave and came back to my side.

She was able to see the intangible sadness that had always existed in me.  She knew that there was a certain sense of Godforsaken loneliness inside that she wouldn’t be able to fully fix for me, she was a willing “band-aid.”

That is the interesting thing about animals, their senses tell them so much about their world, yet they can’t articulate the depth of their experience to us in ways that we can relate.  So we find middle ground that makes us both feel good.   That was the goal anyway,  so any deviation from that goal feels like devastation.

I’d like to say that I never got mad at Claddagh again, but incidences did arise.  I was never as aggressive with her again, as the time I thought I should re-home her but that didn’t matter.  I hated expressing anger at her because I knew above all that she was just a pure spirit.

Today was day two of waking up without her.  I slept in until noon just to avoid the reality and because writing all of this out and drinking vodka is very tiresome.   I still want to cry but I feel resistance. My eyes go through patches of cloudiness that I can’t seem to rub away.  I know I am dehydrated.  I just want my dog.

Here are some weird facts about my Claddagh;

1.) She never, ever would shit on the trail.   She would always find a place off trail to do her business, and I thought that was super respectable.

2.) She never once peed or pooped in the house.  Not one accident like that.

3.) One time she got sick in my car, she purposely puked in the removable cup holder.  Another time she got sick in the barn loft and made sure to puke on the tile and not on the carpet.

If a dog could be considerate, I think that these three facts really represent that about her.   She knew that I could get into stressful states, and it’s like she did everything she could to not make that worse in me.   She knew that if she stayed out of the way, that I would come to her in defeat and just hold her and cry.

It took a while for us to learn that in each other.  When to walk away, to calm down so that everything could be handled with more patience and decorum.  No doubt these are useful attributes with all living beings, and Claddagh held space for me to work on cultivating those traits.

In twenty four hours, I am missing attributes Claddagh had that I took for granted; from catching pesky flies and mosquitoes, to not helping me finish the last quarter of the hamburger… just weird small things you don’t think much about.  Last night I was eaten up by bugs, and I made myself sick by finishing the last of the burger because it seemed somehow wrong to throw it into the trash.  I just sat looking back and forth and the burger and the empty spot on the floor where Claddagh would be patiently waiting for her portion.

She could have food sitting in her bowl all day, and yet she would wait to eat until I was eating.   I wish I was as good of a human, as she was as a dog.

My Best Friend: Assimilating One Another

In any relationship there is compromise.  Especially if you are living together.  I only had a handful of info when it came to Claddagh/IMA/Pasha’s past.   She was found and surrendered on a Reservation.  She may or may not be spayed.  She had BB’s or some sort of shrapnel scattered on various parts of her body.  She was picked up by a person who already had four dogs, and kept Claddagh separate because the situation was “iffy.”

I always got the feeling she was raped by another dog.  She was very concerned about other canines getting in that area and sniffing around.  She seemed somewhat evolved when it came to assessing another dogs intentions.    I use to joke that she was a lesbian who only liked fixed males and females, because they were less of a threat.

I don’t actually know, but this is the feeling I got from watching her behavior.   She wasn’t a “Dog’s Dog.”   She was  a PuppyCat that wanted to be Human.  Okay, I know we anthropomorphize animals and I have a vivid imagination, but something told me she was no run of the mill dog when it came to social graces.

She didn’t want to fight, but she was willing to defend herself.   Mostly she wanted to play but found it hard to find other dogs who know the rules.  The dogs who knew the rules were dogs of friends.   We, as a group, had subconsciously created a frame work for a dog community.  The people who had dogs, were much like me.   Safety first!  Good Friendly Play!

I haven’t heard Claddagh’s voice in over twenty four hours.  I am restraining myself from running outside to call her in.  I keep making attentive notices that the scratching I hear on the concrete, is not her toe nails. My neighborhood is significantly more quiet without the dog barking battles over the fence.  Brody gives it a go and then gives up after a bit.  I guess it isn’t as fun without a friend.  Now it’s just one tiny dog on one side of the fence, and a bigger, louder dog on the other.  Who knows… maybe Brody is telling the neighborhood dogs that there will be one less voice in the mix of calls that saturate the air at any time of day.  One less shit pile to smell.

I think Claddagh had a prerogative of fun. I never felt like I could rely on her to protect me. I never wanted to put her in situations that might lead to harm.  I would avoid situations like that at all costs, especially after the dognapping incident.

She would be with me four years before she could look me straight in the eyes.  It would be just as long before she learned or discovered how to bark.

My friend Cameron and I were on a camp out.  Claddagh and I had camped together many times before this. She would follow along quietly when I played “ninja in the forest.”  Taking her collar off so that the jingle of her tags wouldn’t distract other animals.  We would sneak up on loud camp sites and check them out from the perimeter and then hike back to our camp.  We would try and trail deer.  I was secretly training her for the apocalypse.

Anyway Claddagh, Cameron and I go on a camp out.  And into the darkness of night we sit around the fire, and Claddagh stirs.  She walks out about ten feet from the fire, her ears peaked and moving around like satellite dishes. She makes her first attempt at barking, her voice cracking like a teenage boy during puberty.  She seems shocked at the noise coming from her own mouth.  I hear coyotes in the distance.  Claddagh gets a hang for this new call, and she rolls with it, barking her ever loving head off.  I am amused and astounded… I thought I had a “barkless dog.”  She proved me wrong while simultaneously slipping into a whole new maturity. Still, she never manifested into a physical protector.  We were battling a spiritual thing, and her physical body obviously took the brunt of effect.

Claddagh rarely looked “happy.”  In all reality both her and I suffer from Resting Bitch Face.  It looks pensive, introspective, concerned, and perhaps a little distraught.  Upon meeting, we both knew that we came with baggage, but it didn’t matter, it was “for better or worse.”

I never felt “safer” for her being there, but I did feel a concern of care that made me utilize all of my senses in order to keep us both safe.  Intuition and psychic bond were paramount in our relationship, probably even more so than many human relationships. We bared every season in almost every condition, side by side.  I would spend my last dollars on food for her and go hungry.   She was always a good visitor, and no one ever told us that we couldn’t come back.

I think back to Kelty Krumb. I think about how he was the last dog to persuade me into  having a dog of my own.  How he eased me into dealing with animal hair in every nook and cranny of house and home.  I think he would have liked Claddagh. I think about how my heart broke when I learned he was gone, and how much that must have hurt his owner.  I think about how amazing a dog can be and how if they are amazing enough, they will convince other people to become dog owners by setting an almost unreachable height when it comes to canine perfection as assumed by humans.

Claddagh did that to people.  People who had never had a dog before, became enamored by her very quickly.  Her perfection would settle in the imagination of those who dreamed what it may be like to have a dog.  I didn’t hesitate to tell people that it was years in the making by observation and appreciation.  I told them that she was with me everyday, and that my life continued to be unconventional in order to facilitate the reality we were living.  Most times people shrugged off that part.  They thought they could just go all willy nilly to a shelter and find a gem.

That seemed to be a rare case.  My dog was with me ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.  She sat in a car 6 hours a day some days.  But, when she got out of the car we went on adventures.  Most times it was nature, other times it was urban; she became well versed in various environments, around different people.   She would sidle up next to almost anyone, but building dog relationships was harder.

She wasn’t ordinary.  She was extraordinary.

My Best Friend: How we met

Messes, Money, Grief, God.  What does this mean for me?  What do I need to get rid of?

Every time I look at Claddagh’s water bowl, the tears reemerge.  I threw her bed away.  I tossed all her toys in the trash.  I put her leashes in a free box.  Her is hair everywheret.

I use to be so anal about having hair on my clothes.  A real lint roller bandit.  The day Claddagh and I found each other, I let that go.  I knew that there was no escaping her shed.   I didn’t even think twice about it.   It’s like a part of myself died, or that my hyper-vigilance had at least taken a new direction.  Who cares about hair on your clothes when you are madly in love?

I’ve known so many wonderful dogs over the course of my life.  We had dogs in our family from my earliest memories.  Pepper; Muffin, Maggie, Buffy, Sprocket, Lucky, and Elsie were all Family dogs belonging to my direct family that I spent most of my childhood around. Each was so unique, but none of them were really “my dog.”

I dreamed of the day I would finally find my own companion.  The desire started about the time I was twenty-five.  I had been in a three year relationship with a man who had a beautiful golden retriever named Kelty Krumb.  Kelty reminded me of Falcore from The Princess Bride.  I fell in love with that dog, but I still lint rolled all the time.   One of the hardest parts of the break up, was losing the dog in my life.

So I got serious about “Mandie-festing” the perfect dog.  I lived in dog towns, and my friends often had dogs.  Sometimes I would spend more time hanging out with the dogs than I did my friends.  This all kicked into high gear around 2006 when I was living in Nederland, CO.  A small town up the canyon from Boulder.

“A dog in every Subaru.”  I could buy a bulk brown sack full of dog treats from the grocery store for very cheap, so I was constantly packed with treats for the dogs I would see in town.  I got to know dogs by name better than some of their owners.   I paid attention to the attributes I loved about each animal.  I knew that I would know when and where and who when the time was right.

There were two predominant dogs in my life during this time.  Gullivan and Mountain Girl.  Gullivan was my friend Tammy’s companion.  Gullivan and I created a fast bond and he would always greet me at my car for a treat and some love.  We could play rough and he was just amazing.

Mountain Girl belonged to my friend Michigan Mike.  I was casually sleeping with his roommate for a few months and was able to spend time getting to know Mike and Mountain Girl.  She was the epitome of dedicated and independent.  She was a large St. Bernard, and she roamed about town without being leashed up.  She would walk down to the pub, where Mike was often found, and she would lay outside waiting for him to come take a smoke break.  And if she ever got tired of waiting outside the pub, she would saunter back home for a while to eat and drink.  I really feel like Mountain Girl was Mike’s guardian angel.  It was an emotional hit to the entire community when Mountain Girl passed away.  She was this gentle giant ambassador of the community at one time.

I wanted a dog like that.  The ultimate, to be able to sit and stay, unleashed for a period of time and to always know where home is.  I can say that Claddagh went above and beyond my expectations in the time that we had together.

2007 happens.  I had lost my brother on July 25, 2006.  I terminated a pregnancy in early 2007 after a one night stand during a blizzard and the condom broke. If I am honest with myself, I was lonely as fuck.  I couldn’t find human companionship that was equatable on both sides, meaning “we both want to be together.”  I was always like “Don’t call me your girlfriend.”  But then I’d meet someone I would be interested in pursuing and they would just want to fuck.  I ha d had enough, and I wanted someone of my own.

I had been house/cat sitting for a friend for three months while she was out of the country, and about two weeks before she came home I knew that it was time to go to the Humane Society.  I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to live, but I knew that by my 27th birthday,  I would have a furry friend. It would take two weeks and three trips down the canyon before I’d find her.

I had heard that Boulder was a no-kill shelter with a 100% adoption rate.  This seemed worthwhile to me.  A place that I want to check out.  On my first attempt, I turned North instead of South and ended up in Longmont. I turned around again and went back up the mountain.  I tried again a few days later and made the same mistake.  Again I was in Longmont.  I am usually great at directions but I kept getting twisted around.

The second time I figure, “why not check it out?”  I find a little mutt puppy who is kind of sickly.  We walk around outside and he poops green.  I am enamored by his tininess.  I say that I am interested.  I’m all ideals of raising a little puppy.  Longmont requires a 24 hour hold, and a call of confirmation to a landlord that having a pet is allowed.

My friend doesn’t care if I get a dog, as an animal lover herself, and says to pose as her using the land line.   They call, I get approved and I can pick up the puppy the next day.

Remember I am house/ cat sitting?  My friend had five cats in a one room cabin.  The bed was in a loft, and the cats would hang out there during the day and night, when they weren’t knocking potted plants off the window sills.  These cats were missing their Momma and letting me know it.  The morning I woke up to go get the puppy, there was cat shit on my pillow, six inches from my head.  I knew immediately that even though my friend would be home soon, there was no way I could have that sickly puppy around all these passive aggressive cats.   So, I called and canceled my adoption.

The feeling I was suppose to have a dog didn’t pass.  I needed to be realistic and I needed to try again to get to the Boulder Humane Society.   A few days later I tried again, this time I turned the right way and found the place I had been looking for.

I was ushered into the kennel area with an older couple and a younger couple.   The set up was to take a laminated sheet of the dog you were interested in, up to the counter and they would set up a meeting.   The people are looking at the sheets on one side of the cage, and I am at the other side of the cages without the paper.  Just checking them each out, looking for a familiar face.

The elder couple is standing at the front of “Pasha’s” kennel.   They look over the paper, and write down her name.   “Pasha” is paying attention to me, so I ask her to sit. And she sits.  I ask her to lay down, and she lays down.  I ask her if she wants to come play with me and she talks.  She doesn’t bark, she talks.  I already know in this moment she is mine.  I grab her paperwork and go stand in the cue for a meeting.

The elderly couple is in front of me.  The volunteer asks to see the paperwork they are holding, they give it to her and they tell her that they would also like to see Pasha.  The volunteer asks them if they have Pasha’s paperwork.  They say “no”, and I sheepishly say, “I have Pasha’s paperwork.”

The volunteer tells the couple that she will set them up with the dog they chose first, and “If Pasha doesn’t go home with this kind lady today, we can set you up with a meeting with her.”  My heart is fluttering.  I already feel like I was so close to losing her and I didn’t even know her yet.

I chose to meet her in an outdoor kennel.  There were some toys, and a baby pool.  Pasha and I were left alone to check each other out.  She didn’t want toys.  She could care less about the water.  She just wanted to be near me.  She listened as I talked to her, she leaned against my legs and talked.  The elderly couple sat in the kennel next to me, their dog of interest was frantic and jumping and barking.  They looked over longingly at Pasha’s excited but mellow demeanor.  She did not jump on me, she did not lick or drool.  She just told me ” We found each other.”  And So I paid fifty bucks for the greatest love I would ever know up until this point.

I didn’t know what I was going to call her.  Pasha didn’t fit, so for about a week, I called her IMA.  I.M.A.= Incredibly Magical Animal.  We slept together with all the cats in the top loft.  I would heft her up the crazy ladder that slipped out from underneath me more than once and our life together began. I finally settled on the name Claddagh Moondancer Wonderdog. Claddagh because of the Irish wedding band, the hands holding a heart with a crown, signifying “Love, Loyalty, and Friendship.”  She was my partner, and I would honor her as such through her name.  Moondancer came along when the snow fell, and Claddagh would lie about needing to go outside to go potty.  She would just want to slide upside down like a penguin on a snow drift.  She would prance through the thick blanket of white, like a deer.  Under a full moon it looked like she was dancing on the moon itself.  Wonderdog, is pretty self explanatory.

My friend came home and Claddagh and I camped out until the snow fell and we moved in with friends who needed some child care and help starting a small business.  Claddagh came with me to work every single day, whether I was working at the New Moon cafe in Nederland, or working for my friends in Gilpin.  Every single day, my dog accompanied me, and I swore I would never work another job that would keep me from her for long periods of time.  I was blessed to have it work out so perfectly over the years.

I understand people get pets that they only see a little bit throughout the day or night… but I seriously got a companion.  She was more than “emotional support animal.”  I didn’t have a doctors note or anything.  I just lived in an incredibly dog friendly town, and Claddagh was the most love-able dog you could meet.  She treated everyone like they were there to specifically see her.  She would give her full attention and love.  She would talk to anyone who came into her sphere.  Only once, during our time together, did she sense that a person was “off”, and backed away as if disgusted.  It was like she hit an energy bubble, and she backed away as if to say “this isn’t a sphere I want to be in.”  The woman was homeless and talking to herself, she looked rather disturbed.

All the regulars at New Moon knew Claddagh.  They loved her.  On my days off, I would grab coffee and paint on the patio with Claddagh right beside me.  Once a week we would go on a date and get a burger and french fries and share it on the patio of First Street, and later Squirrels in Corvallis, Oregon.  Any place that served beer, burgers and fries and had a dog friendly patio, was my kind of spot. I met a lot of people because of Claddagh.

There is so much more to her story.  I am going to cut this chapter off here.  There is so much to process.  My eyes are wet and dry at the same time.   I want to honor her.  If you are reading this, thank you for taking the time to get to know my best friend.  I look forward to sharing more about her as I am able to sit and write it all down.

My Best Friend: The Good-bye, Goodgirl.

Today started like every other day. The cats woke me up and I poured food in their bowls, and Claddagh and I got up and I let her outside. I got myself a glass of water, not really feeling coffee, and did as I usually do; sift through emails, check the updates on social media.

My uncle came out with the trash, as he usually does, and perched himself down by the bins to give Claddagh her morning treat.  That fake bacon stuff she loves.

My uncle made note that she wasn’t acting herself, and looked like she had thrown up.  I figured it was just some stomach upset that she was looking to relieve by eating grass and then throwing it up.   Concerned, I checked her out and over all she seemed normal.

As the day went on I noticed she wasn’t acting as normal.  Our friend Devon stopped by, and usually Claddagh is up and very talkative when he shows up.  She is always excited to tell him something.  Today, she stayed very calm, and didn’t say a word.   I didn’t pay much notice to that but shortly after he left, Brody dog came out and as usual ran at the fence to bark at the neighboring dog.

Usually Claddagh is the ring leader in the barking nonsense.  She waits anxiously for Brody to follow her out and raise a little mayhem.   She didn’t move.  She stayed glued to the ground, watching Brody raise a ruckus.   This was odd enough to give her further inspection.  Her stomach seemed bloated but she wasn’t whining or crying.  She didn’t wince in pain, regardless I found the swelling to be disconcerting.

This of course led me to Google to ask about swelling belly in a dog, which lead me to bloat, which they say is an emergency situation.  Of course it has to be on a Saturday, right?  Claddagh is still getting up and moving around, but she seems so lethargic.  I sit with her in the yard and she pukes up the treats my uncle gave her, and a bunch of bile.

I call the vet, and wait for the emergency on-call to call me back.  He does, and I give him a run down of her symptoms.   He doesn’t think it is bloat but tells me that I can call back.  I tell him I will keep an eye on her.  I do and by the hour her stomach is getting bigger and bigger.  She is finding it harder and harder to walk very far without needing to lay down.  I call the vet two more times.  He still doesn’t sense bloat.   Finally around 9:40pm I decide she has to go in.

I want to hope for the best but I feel sick.

Claddagh uses all her effort to get into the car.  We arrive ahead of the Vet, and sit out side.  Claddagh doesn’t want to sit down because she knows she is going to have to get back up and it’s getting increasingly difficult for her.

I run down the list with the Vet and he takes her for x-rays and blood work.  He says he will call in about an hour.  I drive the two blocks home to wait for the call.

At 10:53 he calls with bad news.  Claddagh has a large heart based tumor.  He gives me three options;  I can go to Ft. Collins tonight for an ultra-sound, he can give me medicine to get her through the night (maybe) and take her for an ultra-sound in the morning, or I could put her down.

The condition she had, and the way the swelling was affecting her; her heart was so big that it was cutting off circulation to the other organs in her chest.

That is so like her, you know?  To have a big heart, so big even that it would work against her longevity.   As much as I wanted her to come home with me, I knew that potentially waking up to her, gone, would be too much for me.   And even though she wasn’t really having a painful condition, her breathing was so labored and her deterioration was happening so quickly, letting her go seemed like the most humane thing to do.

I told her how much I loved her.  How special she was to me in my life.  I gave her all the kisses and told her how hiking would never be the same.

The medicine worked quickly.  Her eyes became quite dilated and then she was gone.

I had to make so many decisions in just hours today, and no matter what, there was not going to be any saving her.

I had walked back to the vet, to put her down.  It was a harsh reality to walk out of there with a leash and a collar and a bill for five hundred dollars.  I wish I was walking home with my best friend, or at least empty handed.

This morning there was no inkling in my mind that today would end up this way.

I have to re-learn how to be “Mandie without Claddagh.”  She was the longest relationship I have ever had in my life.  We spent almost every day together starting on September 13, 2007.  She was my birthday gift to myself, and she did not disappoint.

My heart is broken right now.   I am in a bit of a shock and I can’t imagine what tomorrow looks like without my Dita.  For those of you who knew her, she loved you.  She loved everyone, and always thought you were here to see her.

I couldn’t have asked for a greater love in my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful.